Cubs manager David Ross sees Cardinals’ season comeback as an inspiration

St. Louis, left for dead by most baseball pundits, set a franchise record with its 16th consecutive win.

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The Cardinals’ Harrison Bader, left, celebrates after hitting a solo home run as Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looks on during the eighth inning of Sunday’s game.

The Cardinals’ Harrison Bader, left, celebrates after hitting a solo home run as Cubs catcher Willson Contreras looks on during the eighth inning of Sunday’s game.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

When the Cubs and Cardinals played at Wrigley Field just before the All-Star break, both were under .500. Since then, they’ve taken wildly divergent paths.

St. Louis, left for dead by most baseball pundits, set a franchise record with its 16th consecutive win after Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Cubs and rocketed to a possible National League wild-card spot. The way they’re playing, the Cardinals are no one’s desired opponent in the playoffs.

In the Cubs’ clubhouse, the Cardinals’ success this September has become a teachable moment.

“That’s a nice lesson for me of, it’s 162,’’ Cubs manager David Ross said. ‘‘It’s not the All-Star break; it’s not the trade deadline; it’s not into September. It’s the entire season.’’

As his team goes into the offseason, then returns next spring, Ross will be holding on to what the Cardinals have accomplished these last few weeks.

“I’ll be using that as an example, for sure,” he said.

Ross views the Cardinals as a great example of a team heading into a season with faith in the roster and being willing to ride with that group whether it goes up or down in the standings.

Other than filling a few small holes with bargain veteran additions, St. Louis was not especially active at the trade deadline. Ross thinks there’s value in assembling your group, then having the confidence to stick with those players.

In the next few months, the Cubs’ front office will start answering questions about what the 2022 roster will look like. Ross does not take a driver’s-seat role in building that roster, but he said there are players who have gotten his and the front office’s attention.

“Guys are making names for themselves,” Ross said.

He pointed specifically to Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel along with role-player types such as Rafael Ortega. Wisdom set a team rookie record for home runs in fewer at-bats than Kris Bryant needed in 2015, and Schwindel has a good chance to lead the team in wins above replacement by season’s end.

“I don’t know that there’s anything that I can put my finger on that is stamped into next season,” Ross said. “Big-picture-wise, for the young guys, there’s a lot of holes to fill and depth to get, and how that plays out is going to tell us a lot about what kind of roster we’ll have next year.”

Pitching might be the greatest need. Since the trade deadline, the offense actually has been better than in previous months. From Opening Day to July 30, the Cubs hit .227 with a well-below-average wRC+ (theirs was 88; the average is 100). Since July 31, those numbers are .249 and 96.

With the Cubs’ stable of young arms, the front office and coaching staff will have the winter and spring training to work on sorting out the best roles for those pitchers. For now, what Ross and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy value most is their availability and flexibility because that creates options for free agency and the trade market.

“The more options you have, the better it is for the front office to go out and be flexible in the pieces they can get to fill out their team,” Ross said.

Whatever those pieces are, seeing what the Cardinals have done since being essentially written out of the playoff conversation in July and August has left an impression on Ross.

It’s an impression he hopes to carry over into 2022 and use to remind himself and his players that prolonged losing streaks don’t always mean you’re out of contention.

“Baseball is weird like that,” Ross said of the Cardinals. “You get a little bit of momentum and the schedule plays out sometimes in your favor, and you gain confidence, and you see what confidence does.”

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